A former center of the timber industry in the Brazilian Amazon, the municipality of Dom Eliseu had built its economy around deforestation—much of it illegal. In 2008, as part of a strategy to enforce the country’s environmental policies, the federal Ministry of the Environment included Dom Eliseu on a list of the worst violators of deforestation laws. The blacklist cut off residents’ access to markets and credit and made the municipality the target of intensive law enforcement. To get off the blacklist, the community had to overcome a collective-action problem. The local government had to persuade the owners of 80% of private land—more than 1,000 properties—to map their property boundaries, declare the extent of deforestation, enter their properties in the state environmental registration system, and adopt more-sustainable methods of production. The municipality also had to build the capacity to take on new responsibilities for environmental protection—most important, environmental licensing, which would enable the local government to regulate land use. With support from nongovernmental organizations and the state, Dom Eliseu successfully coordinated private compliance with the national policy and left the blacklist in 2012.
Maya Gainer drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Belém and Dom Eliseu, Brazil, in September 2014. This case was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in collaboration with the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Case published March 2015.